EDITORIAL: Taiwan a guide for HK silent majority

Sat, Nov 30, 2019 - Page 8

The silent majority took action on Sunday in Hong Kong and used the ballot box to make their voices heard.

The territory’s district council elections put paid to the lie peddled by Beijing and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s (林鄭月娥) administration — that the months of pro-democracy protests in the territory were foreign-instigated and supported — as a record number of Hong Kongers cast ballots: more than 70 percent of eligible voters.

They voted overwhelmingly for pro-democracy candidates over pro-Beijing incumbents or novice candidates, voting them into 389 of the 452 seats, or more than 80 percent, and giving them control over 17 of the 18 councils. They are no longer willing to meekly accept governance by those who ignore their needs and desires to curry favor with Beijing, and they want a greater say in how the territory is run.

While the councils might be small potatoes in terms of governing the territory, as Beijing retains a death grip on the faux election process for chief executive and several pro-democracy candidates have either been ruled ineligible for the Legislative Council elections or had their elections annulled, they are a first step to claiming more power.

The new councilors will have control of 117 seats on the 1,200 member committee that chooses the territory’s chief executive, a block that in previous “elections” was seen as strongly pro-Beijing. Adding those 117 votes to 235 the pro-democracy camp had in the previous election might be enough to make Beijing nervous, as a candidate needs to have 150 nominations to run for chief executive and 601 votes to win, even though the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) policy plenum last month announced plans to “enhance” the system used to select the chief executive.

While Lam on Monday said that her government would “listen to the opinions of members of the public humbly and seriously reflect,” protesters returned to the streets this week, as their demands remain unmet, including direct elections for chief executive and an independent investigation into police brutality against demonstrators.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) urged Lam’s government to heed calls for democracy, as political reform of some sort is clearly — and urgently — needed.

One way that Hong Kong could achieve that could be taking another page from Taiwan’s playbook.

As Carl Miller pointed out in an article published on Wired magazine’s Web site on Tuesday, the world could learn from Taiwan’s ongoing efforts to reinvent its democracy in the wake of the 2014 Sunflower movement.

Members of the activist G0v (gov zero) collective, including those who were part of the Sunflower protests, joined the central government’s newly formed Public Digital Innovation Space and in the past few years have helped change the way the government listens to the public and makes decisions through vTaiwan.

The goal is to make the policymaking process more transparent and inclusive, as well as stressing consensus-seeking.

The Sunflower movement helped inspire Hong Kong’s “Umbrella movement” and the leaderless protests that have rocked the territory this year.

Hopefully, the lessons learned by Taiwan’s government — by officials of the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration and later by their Democratic Progressive Party successors — could be “reflected upon” by Lam’s administration as it seeks ways to move forward.

A majority of Hong Kongers are not willing to go silently into the long, dark night of 2047, when the 50 years of “one country, two systems” is to end, under the ever-more authoritarian CCP; they do not want to end up like the non-Han people of Xinjiang.

There is no reason they should.